How I Handled the Research for the Book by Lisa Fellinger – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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How I Handled the Research for the Book

The Serendipity of Catastrophe revolves around a month-long trip to Europe. But when I first started writing this manuscript, I’d never been to Europe and it wasn’t within my means to be able to do so. Doubt crept in as I started drafting—how could I possibly expect to write a story taking place mostly in places I’d never been? How would I get the details right, and wouldn’t my readers call me out for being a fraud?

So, I turned to my trusty friend, Google, and asked how I could write a book set overseas when I’d never, in fact, been there, and I found a lot of other writers sharing their experiences of writing books set in countries or cities they’d never visited. I purchased guidebooks for the countries I initially intended to have my characters visit and flipped through them with Anita and Victor in mind. What kinds of places in these books would excite them? What places would they skip? I utilized Google Maps to find out where landmarks were in relation to one another and learned how incredible a resource Street View is.

But after I’d completed my first draft, my husband and I decided to take a Mediterranean cruise. The price fit within our budget and not only would we get to travel to Europe, but I’d also get to visit some European cities in real life. I decided to change a couple of the cities visited in The Serendipity of Catastrophe so they aligned with cities we’d visit on our cruise so I could incorporate my own experiences into the book. The cruise we booked left out of either Barcelona or Rome, but since Barcelona was significantly cheaper to fly in and out of, that was the city we decided to port from. And I’m so incredibly glad we did. Barcelona wouldn’t have even been a city I considered for Anita and Carrie’s trip at all, but after visiting, I love that I had the opportunity to experience that city and to give it such an important role in my book.

A couple years later, we again had the opportunity to travel overseas and decided on Paris. While I had kept Paris as one of the cities visited, I still hadn’t seen it in person, so this trip again gave me the opportunity to bring life experiences into the story.

While I know of writers who plan research trips for the places in their books, I decided against using these trips specifically as research trips. After all, while it was convenient for my story that we’d decided to travel to these places, the main purpose of our trips was to experience the cities and enjoy a nice vacation together. Instead, I focused on simply soaking in each city and allowing myself to have a wonderful vacation there. And then when I returned and worked back through my manuscript, bits and pieces of my experiences crept in. The smells of freshly baked bread and outdoor cafes overrun with cigarette smoke in Paris found their way into the story. My own thoughts upon seeing the Sagrada Familia and the Eiffel Tower for the first time informed the way Anita and Carrie both saw these landmarks. A quirky bakery and an authentic Mexican restaurant in Barcelona became settings for conversations between my characters. Small little things found their way into the story that I wouldn’t have been able to think of on my own, nor could I have discovered via Google, and I believe the story feels richer and more authentic thanks to these experiences.

Could I have written this book without visiting the actual cities? Absolutely. I still haven’t been to London even though the city features prominently in the story. But I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to explore these cities and then carry those experiences over into my writing. When people talk about writing what you know, this is what they mean. I may not have lived through Anita or Carrie’s exact circumstances but bringing in my own experiences of visiting these cities helped create a solid foundation for my characters’ stories to unfold. And this is exactly why I tell writers that living and enjoying your life is just as important for your development as a writer as the time spent at your computer—the time we spend fully living and immersing ourselves in life is time invested in building our bank of material to write about.

A mother defeated by anxiety. A daughter determined not to become her mother. Can one month in Europe reunite them?

Anita Lorello is paralyzed by grief. When her husband dies in an accident the night before a long-awaited retirement trip, she’s devastated by the loss of her partner and once again shelves her dream to finally visit Europe. But when her estranged daughter agrees to accompany her nearly a year later, Anita is eager for the opportunity to repair their relationship.

Carrie Lorello’s life is crumbling. After a night of clouded judgment ends in her being fired, her mother’s offer of a one-month paid vacation seems like her best option. But she refuses to get caught up in her mother’s irrational worries and critical comments, and under no circumstances is she to learn what a failure Carrie’s proven to be.

Desperate not to lose her daughter again, Anita fights to conquer her anxiety and become the mother Carrie always wanted. But as Carrie’s life grows more and more complicated, her mother is the last person she wants to confide in.

Without anyone else to hold them together, can Anita and Carrie overcome their differences, or will the secrets between them derail their trip and destroy their relationship for good?

The Serendipity of Catastrophe is an emotionally compelling work of women’s fiction. If you enjoy travel stories, complex mother-daughter relationships, and lovably flawed characters, you’ll love this hopeful story of resilience and second chances.

Enjoy an Excerpt

They ultimately decided on Paris as their first of many adventures, but before they put down a deposit with the travel agent, Anita learned she was pregnant once again. Instead of planning visits to Notre Dame and the Louvre, her focus turned back to baby strollers and car seats, onesies and sleep training theory. Paris would always be there.

But all these years later, Anita barely knew that daughter. With Victor gone, her link to Carrie disappeared. Her phone calls home were infrequent and short, and she never shared anything about her life other than the most basic facts. Anita hadn’t pressed her for more, desperate not to widen the fissures in their relationship further, yet perhaps she’d inadvertently done just that.

As much as the thought of never seeing Europe devastated Anita, the thought of losing her daughter completely crushed her heart. A month together in Europe was likely Carrie’s worst nightmare, but if by some miracle her daughter agreed to the trip, she couldn’t think of a better opportunity to improve their relationship, to prove she could be the mother she’d always intended to be.

She rose and went back into the kitchen for the phone, the London travel guide still in hand. Meredith was right. Worst-case scenario, Carrie would say no. In fact, it was almost guaranteed she would.

Anita drew a deep breath, trying to keep her hope in check. She punched in Carrie’s cell phone number and prepared for her daughter to turn her down.

But what if she said yes?

About the Author: Lisa Fellinger writes contemporary women’s fiction with lovably flawed, relatable characters. When she’s not writing her own stories, she’s helping others achieve their writing dreams as a book coach and developmental editor. She lives in Buffalo, New York with her husband, son, and fur babies.

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About the Author: Lisa Fellinger writes contemporary women’s fiction with lovably flawed, relatable characters. When she’s not writing her own stories, she’s helping others achieve their writing dreams as a book coach and developmental editor. She lives in Buffalo, New York with her husband, son, and fur babies.

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